After spending a good portion of this fall writing about past deer hunting adventures I was very excited to get the opportunity to go again this year. As it happened I was actually able to get out for three separate hunts. Each of them were amazing and I’m very excited to be able to share them with you here. As before I’ll break the story down into three parts for ease of writing and reading.
Opening day this year fell on Monday, 13 November. For most people it was a day off as Remembrance Day had been the Saturday before. Thankfully Kelly was among those who didn’t have to work and it left me the perfect opportunity to go deer hunting while she looked after Owen.
I spent the evening before the hunt as anxious as a five year old before Christmas wondering excitedly what might await me under a tree the next day. I checked and then rechecked my equipment while enjoying a delicious glass of bourbon and went to bed with images of eight point bucks dancing through my head.
When morning finally arrived I snuck out of bed and showered with some fancy scentless soap I had bought. I thought it was a bit gimmicky but I didn’t want to take any chances on messing up my hunt. I decided to only put on a light layer of clothes so I wouldn’t overheat on the one hour drive to my intended destination north of the city. Making one last quick mental check before leaving I quietly loaded up my trusty hunting buggy, Kelly’s blue two door Pontiac G5, and set off.
The drive up was unremarkable and with the help of my trusty GPS I found my starting spot with little trouble. I parked in an approach which bordered the crown land I was planning to hunt and got out to change into my hunting garb. The temperature that morning was about minus fifteen Celsius and I had to strip to my underwear in order to put on my base layer, outer layer and finally my blaze orange layer. It was refreshing to say the least and by the time I stepped off from the car and into the trees I was certainly wide awake.
Not knowing how far I was going to walk and if I was going to get a deer and then have to pack it out, I decided to bring my frame pack with me. The pack is an old 64 pattern military rucksack just like I used to carry in the military. I modified it slightly to cart all my hunting/butchering supplies and meat. Accompanying me and my pack was a Remington Model 14 pump action rifle chambered in 35 Remington which I had acquired earlier in the fall.
The Remington was the perfect companion for the day. Truly bespoke, its pump action and unique spiral tube fed magazine allow for quick follow up shots, it’s also reasonably light and very fast pointing. It earned itself a cult following in Eastern Canada and the US in the 1950’s as a great whitetail bush gun but never really saw the same popularity in Western Canada given the open terrain and need for flatter shooting cartridges.
Having never hunted the area before I took my time stalking into the woods. I had previously scouted it online using Google Maps but in person in the early morning light it was a challenge to keep my bearings. The deer sign was plentiful with, scrapes, tracks, and, rubs everywhere I looked. Things were looking very good for me.
Now, I’m not what you would call a very religious man but I talk to God on occasion. Knowing I had a small window of time to bag a deer and with all the fresh tracks I knew that today was going my best chance at getting deer so I asked him, “God, if you don’t mind I’d like to see a deer sooner rather than later.”
It wasn’t more than 30 minutes later that I saw a pack of does spring from a little coulee and dash into the woods in front of me. My heart started to quicken as I raised my rifle waiting and hoping to see a buck follow them, but none came. Too bad I chuckled to myself, I should have been more specific with my request to the almighty. So I asked God again, “Ok, fair enough I asked to see some deer and I did, but now if it’s not to much to ask I’d like to see a buck.”
After another hour of walking I just happened to notice some movement out of the corner of my eye when I stopped to listen for movement in the woods. As I slowly looked to where I had seen the movement I saw a nice buck and doe about two hundred yards away and in some very heavy cover. Again I brought my rifle up and looked through the scope but what I saw was a risky shot I was unwilling to take. Lowering my rifle I was treated to the flagging tail of the buck bounding away into even heavier bush. I chastised myself for apparently once again not being specific enough in my request and laughed at the situation again, although a little less amused than before. Shouldering my rifle and setting off again I started to think, “Ok funny guy, well played. I’d like to see a buck, ideally one I can shoot and if possible I’d like it to be close to my car so I don’t have to pack it very far. If you grant me this one last request I swear its the last one I’ll make today.” The request sent, I kept walking and started the two kilometer trek back towards the car being careful to take a different route than I had when I left.
It had warmed up considerably and the sun was now making the biting air much more pleasant. Even though I hadn’t got anything from my few hours of stalking it had been a wonderful morning. The terrain was gorgeous and in amongst the trees by myself with just the crunch of my footsteps I felt very much relaxed and in my element.
As I continued to walk the effort of constantly scanning the ground and trees started to take its toll. It had been four hours since I had left the car and I was feeling acute pangs of hunger and decided it would be a good time to head to the car for lunch. I hadn’t seen any fresh tracks or deer sign for some time so I got back on the main trail I had first used and started to walk a normal pace versus the incredibly slow still hunting pace I had been using. As I got to within one-hundred metres of the car I started to unload my rifle, taking the bullets out of the tube was a bit of chore and required me to look down to do it as I walked.
When I got to within ten metres of the car and most of the bullets out of the gun I was somewhat surprised when I heard what sounded like a cough come from my left. I didn’t need to look to know the sound, it wasn’t another hunter, it was a deer and it was damn close. I jerked my head towards the sound and my eyes relayed the image of a beautiful, big, eight point buck less than twenty metres away at which point my brain basically shut down in a flurry of panicked commands to launch my limbs into action.
Through the fog of buck fever I managed to recall that I had a round left in the tube so I tried to pump the action in order to bring it into the chamber. However, because I did it gently in an attemp to be quiet so not to spook the buck, it didn’t feed properly and ratcheted up my anxiety another notch. Thinking quickly I decided instead I would drop a freshly unloaded bullet from within my hand into the open action. In theory this would have worked very well except that when I went to close the action the bullet that was still in the tube and didn’t load before now decided it wanted to go and I ended up with a double feed. Argghhh!
Every second that ticked by let my buck get further away and pick up more speed. By the time I cleared my action and chambered a round the buck had realized it was now in mortal danger and was now bounding at nearly full speed away from me. I brought the rifle to my shoulder and got the buck in my crosshairs and started to tighten my finger around the trigger but the pack I had on caused the rifle to slip and I lost my sight picture.
By this point the shot was going to be at a a running jumping target quartering away from me getting out to 100 yards, so I did the only thing I could do, I lowered my rifle and began berating myself thoroughly. It was while I was in this “emotional” state I took the bullet that wouldn’t feed and then caused the jam out of my gun and chucked it as hard as I could deep into the woods.
I was thoroughly defeated mentally at this point but at the same time pretty amused. I had recieved exactly what I had asked for from God on three seperate occasions, the last time being a buck I could shoot, and I could have so technically I got exactly what I asked for. I wasn’t going to tempt him by asking for anything else so I looked up at the sky, shook my head with a sardonic grin and loaded my gear into the car and set off for home.
I know there were other hunters in the woods on the opposite side of the highway that day, I enviously heard them shooting their deer. Some, I’m sure, will have gone home and regaled their friends and family with the story of their kills but also of the very loud expletive they heard shouted in those cold snowy woods, where I left a perfectly good buck and a damn unlucky rifle round.
Oh well, what can you do.
All the best,